In his article titled, Why Don’t We Punish Women Who Have Abortions? (click here for the article), Joe Carter, from the Acton Institute and The Gospel Coalition (click here for a very brief bio), tries to answer the question that may have prevented Donald Trump from getting the Republican Party's Presidential nomination. Though I myself am not a big fan of Carter, abortion is an issue on which I am in general agreement with him. And though I find his answer to this question to be unsatisfactory, I think the same can be said of any answer giver by us pro-life advocates to the question. This question is that tough.
So what does Carter say? He first resorts to history and it is very helpful. When abortion was illegal, Carter's research indicates that no woman was ever prosecuted for seeking one. And this should seem to save pro-life Christians from the wrath of some pro-choice advocates. In fact, Carter's research here contradicts the claims of some pro-choice advocates I know who believe that Trump accidentally express part of the pro-life agenda.
After citing history, Carter continues to state why women would not be punished should abortion become illegal. In the end, Carter states that the focus of enforcing anti-abortion laws would be on the abortion providers. And that though women seeking abortions are accomplices in the act seeking to end the lives of their unborn, the exception of not prosecuting women is made in an effort to catch the worse culprit. Carter here quotes several experts in making this case including a Minnesota Supreme Court on Helen Clayton, Frederica Matthewes-Green, and Joseph Dellapenna. Why is the exception being made here? It is because the goal of passing anti-abortion laws would be to stop abortion, not to punish women. So only the providers of abortions would be prosecuted.
The problem here for Carter in his unenviable task of trying to answer this question is that he fails to answer the question of what if the expectant mother herself attempts to abort her own unborn child? Should she be prosecuted? Here, one side of Carter's article would say 'no' because the woman seeking an abortion should never be punished while the side that believes that only abortion providers should be punished would have to say 'yes.'
Well, we don't need to wait for the overturning of Roe v. Wade to get our answer here. There are women who have already been criminally prosecuted and are serving jail sentences for seeking to end their own pregnancies (click here). Thus, Carter's article provides an understandably incomplete answer to the question. But he really took on a tough task and said what he could.
Why is the answer to this question so tough? It is because several complex issues are involved in the question. From the pro-choice side, this question is both a fair question and a trap. It is a fair question because it is only right that we ask about the future of women seeking abortion should it become illegal. But it is also a trap because of the definition that abortion is murder, the pro-lifer is forced to choose between inconsistency and selfdiscreditation with the latter when answering whether women seeking abortions should be prosecuted because of the current acceptability of the answer.
In addition, the question ignores the difference between the how society views the victim in abortion from how it views the victim in what we have legally defined as murder. For decades now, we have had no clear and consistent societal message stating that the unborn child is a human life and deserves rights. So if we add that to the other factors that make considering getting an abortion such a complex and personal issue, how could we regard expectant mothers seeking abortions in the same way as we view those who voluntarily take what society has been easily recognized as human life for centuries and even millennia?
At the same time, this question can be used by pro-choice advocates to switch too much of our focus to the trials of the expectant mother that we give less and less consideration to the status and plight of the unborn child. This has an emotional effect of making excusable the taking of human life because of the extraordinary circumstances involved. Yes, some might admit that an unborn child is human, but because of the trials of the expectant mother, we will have to make an exception to valuing and protecting human life by allowing her to choose abortion if she feels the need to. This is the part of the question Carter is trying to answer that he never addresses. But he is never meant to according to the intentions of many a pro-choice advocate who would ask the question.
But there is another unaddressed issue at hand. When Matthews quite logically asks Trump what sanctions should be placed on the expectant mother who seeks to end the life of her unborn child, Matthews presupposes that legal sanctions must be punitive and thus must require time in jail. And it is quite right for him to assume that the law would result in punishing the mother because we simply live in a very punitive society. Criminals must be punished, not helped, according to our legal system. And full credit for that punitive mindset belongs to the very first settlers many of whom were religiously conservative Christians. So, in other words, Conservative Christianity deserves full credit for Chris Matthews' logic when he asked Trump about how mothers seeking abortions should should serve time in jail.
But what if we started to change our legal system so that some actions would merit access to resources, personal help and counseling instead of harsh punishments? Then, the answer to Matthews' question to Trump which Carter attempted to answer could be both consistent with the notion that the expectant mother played a role in the death of her unborn child while recognizing the difficult predicament that any expectant mother faces when she even considers to undergo an abortion.
Abortion is very much a serious and sensitive issue. For it involves somber situations that pregnant wome are forced to face: a woman's personal and human rights and liberty, and the definition of human life. Is the unborn child a human who deserves human rights? It seems that with the question Carter tried to answer and the context of that question provided by Chris Matthews' interview of Donald Trump, determining the definition of human life and the human status of the unborn child have the lowest priority in our national debate on abortion. And being that the definition of human life is an objective one, ominous results lay on the horizon for any society if it attempts to bypass addressing the issue of whether or not the unborn child is a human life deserving human rights.
|This Month's Scripture Verse:|
Whoever loves money never has enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
This too is meaningless -- Ecclesiastes 5:10